Teaching Gratitude Begins With This One Question

Teaching gratitude might be one of the hardest things for parents to teach their children. If you have kids, then you know how this goes. You do something amazing for your kids. You are so proud of yourself. You can’t wait to see the look on their face when they see what you have done. But their face says anything but gratitude. In fact, they dared to complain. 

It could be as simple as the extra ten minutes of playtime with friends wasn’t enough. Actually, no amount of time would ever be enough. But it could also be as big as an expensive purchase they just had to have that’s now sitting in the garage collecting dust. 

It’s Never Enough

You know that teaching them to be grateful is in the parent job description–it’s a must. But somehow you missed the how-to section. Good news! Your kids are sinners. And so are mine. And your neighbors and everyone else are sinners too. So gratitude doesn’t come naturally. What does come naturally is that nagging feeling that what they do have isn’t enough. Because it isn’t. And it will never be. So no matter what you do or how much you buy will ever create the level of satisfaction and gratitude we are looking for. I promise this is still good news.

Because you just need to answer one question.

But before we get to the question and the answer, we need to talk about fear. Why fear, you ask? I’ll show you, just stay with me. 

When our children are scared—whether it’s the dark, a dream, or their imagination running wild, their first instinct is to get us as close as possible. It might be one of the most incredible moments of being a parent—when they grip you as tight as they can, bury their head into your shoulder, and wait for the fear to pass. At that moment, we are the shepherd, the guardian, and the protector. Our children inherently believe that our embrace is protection enough. At that moment, there is nothing else they need—just us. 

Our relationship with Jesus is meant to be the same way. Is He enough? In the middle of our fears, worries, needs, and wants, do we find the most satisfaction when seeking to be as close to Him as we possibly can. And as our children seek comfort in our arms, are we teaching them to do the same with Jesus? Are we teaching them that He is enough?

There’s the question…

Is Jesus Enough?

Let me show you what I mean. 

Take a minute and read Acts 16. This is the story of Paul and Silas being thrown in jail. Not because they broke the law, but because they talked about Jesus, stirred people up, and made the people ask some crucial questions about what they believed and why. They managed to get people pretty fired up just because they boldly preached the gospel. That ended them up in jail. It’s one thing to be willing to go to jail, and it’s one thing to welcome such adversity. But it’s a wholly different thing to be rejoicing in it. And, of course, that is precisely what Paul does—rejoice. Paul completely understands what it means to be scared, hungry, have no place to sleep, be persecuted, be on the run, and have no place to hide. Yet, Paul is content in all these situations. Not because he doesn’t care, but because Christ is enough. 

And this is precisely what David was talking about in Psalm 23—God is the one who looks after our needs, so we have no need to be in want. No matter what is happening in our world, we can find rest, safety, and refuge in His arms. It’s a simple children’s song, but it’s true, God really does have the whole world in His hands because He is enough. But let’s be honest with ourselves. For most of us, the act of resting in God’s provision for our lives is much easier said than done. It’s not simply a light switch we can turn on at a moment’s notice—it’s gradual. But it’s connected with how we learn gratitude.  

Gratitude is learned when we teach our kids continually that Jesus is enough. They learn appreciation when we model that mentality ourselves. So, make a list of everything you are grateful for this week and put it on the fridge—ask your kids to do the same. Each day spend time praying through these items, thanking God for each of them. The constant rhythm of thanking God will begin to direct our hearts to make Jesus enough. What follows is an overwhelming sense of gratitude, that what you have right now is enough because you have all you need in Jesus. 

Published by stevenmkozak

Steve has been an experienced and dedicated youth ministry and non-profit leader for more than 15 years. Steve has taught in the classroom, local church, and parachurch organizations. Steve holds a masters degree in theology from Moody Theological Seminary and a masters in Christian apologetics from Biola University. He speaks and writes on youth ministry, youth culture and apologetics. He resides in northern Indiana with his wife and four children.

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